Travel News

Thousands stranded as airline considers bankruptcy

Simon Calder’s Travel

Air Vanuatu announced Thursday the airline had cancelled international flights for four days and was considering bankruptcy protection for the South Pacific state-owned carrier.

It said international flights were cancelled until Sunday and flights after that day were “under review.”

“The Vanuatu government is now considering placing Air Vanuatu into voluntary administration,” a statement said, referring to a local equivalent of a US Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

“The international firm Ernst & Young has been appointed to assist the Vanuatu government in reviewing available options and put forward recommendations,” the statement added.

Thousands of travelers have been left stranded by the cancellations.

Air Vanuatu operates one 737-800 aircraft, which flies all mid-haul routes from Port Vila, including to New Zealand and Australia.

Last month customers faced several days of delays after its only Boeing 737 plane broke down, leaving passengers stranded in Auckland, Sydney and Port Vila.

The flight, which was due to take off from Brisbane and land in Port Vila, was cancelled due to a mechanical issue, which took the aircraft out of service.

Champagne Beach is one of the most known in Vanuatu for the white sand and an incredible clear water (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Passengers expressed their frustration that a replacement aircraft could not be found. One passenger tweeted: “So apparently the plane we are meant to be flying home on tomorrow has mechanical issues and is being flown tonight to Australia for repairs so there’s a high chance we won’t be flying out tomorrow.

“Yes Air Vanuatu only has one big plane for flights to Aus.”

The airline said it has “reached out to all available sources to charter a replacement aircraft” but has not been able to find one due to the busy travel period of Easter weekend and the school holidays.

The nation of Vanuatu, spanning a tiny archipelago in the South Pacific, finally reopened to international arrivals in the summer of 2022 after more than two years of closure.

One of the last countries in the world to ease Covid-related travel restrictions, Vanuatu allowed international visitors from 1 July, with no requirement to quarantine or show proof of vaccination.

If you’re affected by these cancellations, contact the airline, your travel agent or insurance company about rescheduling flights.

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